Monday, September 28, 2009

At the bottom of the importers were Austria and Switzerland – few players and hardly players with recognizable names went to the Alps. Seemingly, both countries preferred German players, but since the clubs were not rich, the market was sluggish. Holland and Belgium were much more dynamic, but one-sided – Belgian clubs bought almost exclusively Dutch players, and in turn Dutch clubs almost exclusively bought Scandinavians. Similar culture, similar language, similar working ethics seemingly informed such one-sided practices. Whatever foreign talent was bought by Law Lands club, it was always European players and nothing else. It seems that in 1968 a lot of Czechoslovakian refugees played in Dutch clubs – there were many names sounding Czechoslovak – but not a single recognizable name, so it is hard to say. As a whole, only Dutch players in Belgium meant anything to outside fans, and only Scandinavian players in Holland were of some renown. West Germany than. Sounds great and mighty… The Bundesliga was notoriously shrewd buyer: the total of foreigners in the Bundesliga for 1971-72 season is 15. Among them only 4 were imported in the summer of 1971. The names deserve to be listed here as an illustration: Nico Braun (Luxemburg), Ender Konca (Turkey), Zlatko Skoric (Yugoslavia), and Hans Ettmayer (Austria). Ever heard of them? German rules permitted two foreign players, but even big clubs did not bother to have that many – Bayern and Borussia (Moenchengladbach) were happy with one Dane in each club, both already established.

As late as 1970-71 season Bayern (Munich) were happy to field the Austrian Pumm, whoever he was, along with Beckenbauer and Muller. West German clubs did not spend big money on big foreign stars.

German clubs depended on sound financial policies and careful building of their teams. It was unsound to spend enormous money on some foreign star, who may fit, but may be not fit. It was better to see where is the weak spot in the team, to look around for a player who exactly fits the need, and if there is no available player in the Bundesliga, to look abroad in a country with dependable football tradition and cheap players. And there were such countries nearby – Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Yugoslavia. One doesn’t have to look very far. It was reasonable way of thinking, it was reasonable practice – keeping open doors, but not going crazy and bringing carloads of exotic players. The success of the German clubs was largely in their policy: they got only what they needed for a stronger team. Never for the flash, never just to have big name in the squad. No wonder German football dominated Europe for the most of the 1970s and early 1980s on club level and the world on the national team level. No wonder German teams are strong, wealthy, and winning today – they were built on very good foundation. Very careful foundation too – until 1975 there was no Second professional division in West Germany. And Third professional division was formed in… 2008.